The Second World War was witness to a technological leap in the advancement of weaponry – some were revolutionary, but others were simply….wierd!
1 – Ice Aircraft Carriers “Bergships”
Project Habakkuk was a British plan by Geoffrey Pyke to build aircraft carriers out of pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice).
The carriers, nicknamed “bergships” were to operate as landing platforms for aircraft in the war against the German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic.
A small prototype was constructed at Patricia Lake, Alberta that measured 60 by 30 feet (18 metres by 9 metres), but the final design was to have a deck 2,000 ft (610 m) long with a hull 40 ft (12 m) thick to withstand torpedo attack.
2 – Goliath tracked mine
The Goliath tracked mine “beetle tank” was a remote controlled demolition vehicle used by the Germans in world war two.
Capable of carrying 60 to 100 kilograms of high explosives, the vehicle was intended for tank demolition, disrupting dense infantry and the demolition of buildings and bridges. Goliaths were used on all fronts from as early as 1942 by the specialised Panzer and combat engineer units.
A total of 7,564 Goliaths were produced, but the low success rate, high unit cost, low speed (just above 6 miles per hour (9.7 km/h) and thin armour led to their cancellation.
3 – Bat Bombs
The Bat bomb was an experimental weapon conceived by a Pennsylvania dentist named Lytle S. Adams and developed in the United States.
The bomb was a shell-shaped container that held scores of Mexican Free-tailed bats. The bats were attached to small timed incendiary bombs and released from a bomber at dawn. The bats would roost in buildings and attics, then detonate via a timer to cause vast spatial fires in towns and cities.
4 – Fire Balloon Bombs
The fire balloon was a hydrogen balloon launched by the Japanese containing either an antipersonnel bomb or incendiary bomb.
They were designed as a cheap weapon intended to make use of the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean and drop bombs on American and Canadian cities, forests, and farmland. The balloons were ineffective as weapons, but their potential for destruction and fires had a psychological effect on the American people.
5 – The Bob Semple Tank
Originating out of the need in New Zealand to build military hardware from available materials at the outbreak of WW2, the tank was constructed from corrugated iron mounted on a tractor.
Designed by New Zealand Minister of Works Bob Semple, the first prototype was built on a Caterpillar D8 tractor and equipped with seven Bren machine guns. Due to the lack of armour plate, corrugated (manganese) plating was used in the expectation it would deflect bullets.
6 – Bachem Ba 349
The Bachem Ba 349 Natter was a German point-defence rocked powered interceptor, similar to a surface-to-air missile designed by Erich Bachem.
Launched vertically like a V2, the interceptor was mainly controlled remotely and then aimed by the pilot at enemy aircraft. The only manned vertical take-off flight took place on 1 March 1945, but ended in the death of the test pilot, Lothar Sieber. Only 36 models were manufactured.
7 – V-3 cannon
The V3 was a German supergun that worked on the multi-charge principle where secondary propellant charges are fired to add velocity to a projectile.
The gun used multiple propellant charges placed along the barrel’s length and timed to fire as soon as the projectile passed them. The Nazis planned to use the cannon to bombard London from two large bunkers in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France.
The site was put out of commission on 6 July 1944, when bombers of RAF Bomber Command’s 617 Squadron (the famous “Dambusters”) attacked using 5,400-kilogram (11,900 lb) “Tallboy” deep-penetration bombs. Two similar guns were used to bombard Luxembourg from December 1944 to February 1945.
8 – Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte Super Tank
The Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte was a German design for a super-heavy tank by Friedrich Krupp AG. At 1,000 metric tons, the P-1000 would have been over five times as heavy as the Panzer VIII Maus and be the heaviest tank ever built.
It was to be armed with naval artillery and armoured with 25 centimetres (10 in) of hardened steel. To compensate for its immense weight, the Ratte would have been equipped with three 1.2 metres (3 ft 11 in) wide treads on each side with a total tread width of 7.2 metres (24 ft). Hitler became enamoured with Grote’s concept and ordered Krupp to begin development in 1942, however, Albert Speer cancelled the project in 1943 before any were constructed.
9 – Hafner Rotabuggy
The Hafner Rotabuggy “Malcolm Rotaplan” was a British experimental aircraft that was essentially a Willys MB army jeep combined with a rotor kite like those found on a gyrokite.
It was designed by Raoul Hafner of the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment and the prototype was built by the R. Malcolm Ltd at White Waltham in 1942.
The Rotabuggy had a 12.4 metres (40 ft 8.2 in) diameter rotor, a tail fairing and fins, but no rudders. It required two men to pilot the aircraft: one to drive it as an automobile, and one to pilot it in the air using a control column. Initially, it was named the “Blitz Buggy”, but that was soon dropped for the “Rotabuggy”.
The introduction of gliders that could carry vehicles made the Rotabuggy obsolete so the project was eventually cancelled.
10 – Flea Bombs
In 1940, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service bombed China with fleas carrying the bubonic plague.
The plague-infested fleas, bred in labs were spread by low-flying airplanes upon Chinese cities in 1940 and 1941. This military aerial spraying killed thousands of people with bubonic plague epidemics.